Alfalfa hay is a water-intensive crop, and exporting it is equivalent to exporting precious groundwater.Credit: Jack Richardson

Water is life. It’s also big business. In our November + December 2023 issue, Mother Jones dives into the West’s deepening water crisis—and the forces behind it, from historic drought to short-sighted policies to corrupt lawmakers and the special interests they serve. Read the full package here.

About a decade ago, having depleted their own ancient aquifers to grow livestock feed, some wealthy Middle Eastern nations, along with China, began tapping into the largely unregulated aquifers of drought-stricken American states. Notably, megafarms in the Arizona desert and in other Western states have been exporting vast quantities of precious groundwater in the form of alfalfa hay.

Even without the exports, unchecked growth and industrial-scale farming across the nation are draining this finite resource more rapidly than it can be replenished. States, meanwhile, are doing an abysmal job of managing it—Arizona, for instance, has even encouraged exports of its groundwater. Here’s a brief timeline of that situation, based on original reporting from Reveal. For a deeper dive, listen to their podcast, […]

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